In my home state of Colorado, the month of May is one I get excited for as that is when the bass fishing starts to turn on. That is right, in a state filled with trout water, I get excited to fly fish for bass. Largemouth and smallmouth are some of the most popular gamefish in the world with conventional fishermen but not many fly anglers take advantage of this species. Bass are a more resilient fish than trout and can be found in a range of locations, from warm water rivers to small farm ponds to large reservoirs. Depending on where you live, I am guessing there is a body of water that has some bass in it not too far away from you. Mix it up and target some bass with your fly rod, you won’t be disappointed! Here are some pointers to help you make the most of your bass missions.
- Largemouth vs Smallmouth. They behave differently. Know which species you are targeting as that will vary your approach. Largemouth bass can live in warmer water and will eat just about anything. My personal favorite way to target largemouth is with poppers during periods of lower light. Smallmouth prefer cooler water with more dissolved oxygen. This allows them to be found in rivers along with deeper reservoir. I prefer to target smallies with crayfish type patterns. If fishing a reservoir, find some rock piles and don’t be afraid to put on a sinktip.
- Fish during periods of low light. It is a lot easier to get into a new type of fishing if you are having success. When targeting bass with a fly, you will find the most success early or late in the day. Periods of low light will have the bass in shallower water, more willing to feed.
- Find the cover. Bass love cover. Wood, boat docks, rock piles, weed lines and lily pads are among their favorites. Fishing a large body of water can be intimidating, start with looking for some cover.
- Power of the pause. You want to be moving your fly to get the bass’s attention but I find I get the majority of my takes during the pause between strips. This is the same when fishing poppers or subsurface. You want to vary your retrieve but don’t lose contact with the fly between strips, this is when you will get your best eats! Another time you shout be ready for an eat? The second your fly lands. If you don’t get an eat the moment your fly lands, retrieve it slow with plenty of pauses.
- Strip set. You want to keep the rod tip down and really bury that hook home. You can fish heavier line for bass so don’t be shy during the hook set. Bass have a hard mouth compared to other freshwater fish.
- Don’t be afraid to blind fish. I love to sight fish but most of the bass I hook up to are when blind casting. Bass are opportunistic and very curious so they will move a good distance to check out your fly.
- Following up on the previous point, fish large flies with plenty of flash. Again, they are very curious fish and they don’t have hands. When they want to inspect something, they eat it! You can fish anything from your trout streamers to big deer hair poppers. If you are targeting bass in rivers, large stonefly nymphs can also be effective.
Targeting bass on the fly brings me back to my fishing days as a kid, asking neighbors if I could fish their ponds, promising to release anything I got. Simply put, I have fun when fishing for bass. I am not anxious like I am when casting at a single cruising bonefish or stressed when trying to get a trout to pick my dry fly out of a pile of naturals. Fishing for bass is about fun! And regardless of what species you are targeting, if you have a rod in your hand, you are becoming a better angler. Step outside of your comfort zone and give fly fishing for bass a try.
Other Target Species: